Bethany Clough

A Fresno Lebanese restaurant has been ‘coming soon’ for more than a year. It’s finally open

Pita Grill restaurant in Fresno is finally open

Pita Grill restaurant sells Middle Eastern and Mediterranean food like kebabs and shawarma.
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Pita Grill restaurant sells Middle Eastern and Mediterranean food like kebabs and shawarma.

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A little restaurant in front of Fashion Fair mall in Fresno put up its “coming soon” sign more than a year ago.

It’s finally open.

Pita Grill, at the corner of Shaw Avenue and First Street, serves shawarma, kebabs, salads and falafel. It’s mostly Lebanese cuisine (though between the owner and its social media pages, its menu is also described as Middle Eastern and Mediterranean, and the family who owns it has roots in Yemen).

What was supposed to be a 10-week process of opening the restaurant took a year and a half, said owner Abobaker Alamrani. The former Verizon store didn’t have a kitchen so they installed one, and upgraded all the plumbing and gas to go along with it.

All kinds of delays popped up: The landlord died during lease negotiations, there was some miscommunication behind the scenes, and basic plan changes with the city planning department took longer than expected.

But Pita Grill is here now, so let’s talk about the food.

The menu

The restaurant’s menu has plates of different meats served with rice, salad and hummus.

Not sure what you want? Alamrani recommends the mix grill plate. It has four pieces of chicken kebab, four pieces of beef kebab and a piece of beef lula (ground beef marinated with seasonings and shaped around a skewer before cooking).

“This is a good one to try them all and see what they like,” he said.

Some of the plates can take 20 minutes to cook, so if time is an issue, go for the lunch specials. Most dishes on the menu range from $8.99 to $15.99.

Vegetarian options include a falafel plate and a veggie combo plate.

The falafel and hummus are made in house. In the kitchen, giant pots of chickpeas soak for 12 hours before cooking in a process that takes two days to make the hummus.

The meat you see being cooked on a glowing orange rotisserie behind the counter is shawarma. Usually, it’s chunks of chicken or beef stacked on a vertical rotisserie, cooking from the outside in as they rotate. When you order, a worker slides a knife down the outside, giving you a pile of roasted meaty bits.

And if you want something authentically Yemeni, Alamrani recommends the lamb shank. It’s coated in spices and wrapped in foil before being slow cooked.

“When it comes out, it’s all still juicy and still soft,” he said.

And of course, there’s dessert. Baklava is on the menu, but also basbousa, a Middle Eastern sweet cake with coconut, almonds and a sweet glaze.

Details: Pita Grill is at 779 E Shaw Ave. It’s open 11 a.m to 10 p.m. daily.

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